Like most people, I was too busy to pay attention when it came out.
At home, in the car, in the classroom, even at the grocery store, I watched flat-screen HD televisions, talked into smartphones, listened to radios and read an array of online websites, all in the name of communication.
Modern communications have undeniably given people around the world unprecedented and innumerable ways to receive and share information. Endless activity for its own sake, however, proves the very point of the Holy Father’s message: the cacophony of human talk and cyberspace traffic has drowned out the symphony of silence.
With the season of Lent in mind, here are just three areas in our lives that suffer from our modern communications culture:
“The eloquence of God’s love, lived to the point of the supreme gift, speaks in the silence of the Cross,” Benedict wrote.
Did you ever stop to consider your current relationships? Most of us access social networking sites to satisfy feelings of remaining “connected” with “friends” over great distances. They allow us to claim a breadth in relationships undreamed of just a generation ago. But the endless search for the quantity of our relationships has cheapened the quality in our relationships. The Holy Father’s message warns how truly genuine relationships – the most important among them our own relationship with God – always require total trust, forgiveness in absolute truth, and listening willingly without words.
Authenticity needs silence.
“In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation.”
Evangelization – “proclaiming Christ and his Gospel by word and the testimony of life” (CCC 905) – is an extraordinary mission for the Church and her people in any age. Evangelization may even seem an impossible task in the face of modern secularism and relativism. But the lives of saints attest to how the Holy Spirit assists us in the unique ordinariness of life. Modern communication usually assigns failure when one can’t find the right word to speak externally. Silent, internal reflection, however, can illuminate a successful way previously unseen. The Holy Spirit throughout history succeeds in helping the faithful find novel ways of witnessing the faith, sometimes without using any words.
Creativity needs silence.
“(L)earning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak.”
Contemplation isn’t simply listening with human ears, but a “form of wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God’s greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration” (CCC 2628). Eucharistic adorers, for example, acutely sense the source and summit of faith present. A man of faith in adoration engages the Lord actively, humbly and respectfully. He acknowledges, celebrates, and petitions the presence and endless love before him in the Host.
Sensitivity needs silence.
Silence renews the Church and her mission of evangelization. The Holy Father reminds us that silence also renews authenticity, creativity, and sensitivity within us if we allow it. As Ash Wednesday comes and Lent begins, remember the prophet Elijah on Mt. Horeb. The Lord didn’t speak in a strong, heavy wind, earthquake, or fire, but instead in “a tiny whispering sound.” (1 Kings: 11-12)
God spoke to Elijah, and he can speak to us, in the symphony of silence.
Jason Godin teaches United States history at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas.